Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Photographer's Ephemeris

Just discovered this great application for landscape photographers called The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE). Aside from being an indispensable tool, it's free!

What it does, is allow you to plot exactly where the sun or moon will be on any given day from any location in the world. And I mean exactly!

Tonight was a full moon so I went out to test this application. I knew of a windmill near where I live that would be cool to use in the foreground. Using TPE and it's Google satellite map, I was able to plot exactly where I needed to set up my tripod to get the moon directly above my windmill. TPE also allowed me to adjust the moon rise time since there was a range of hills beyond the windmill. Sure enough, right on schedule, the moon appeared above the hills and directly over my windmill. How cool is that?

The Photographer's Ephemeris was created by Stephen Trainor, a Colorado based photographer. He also offers an iPhone application for less than ten dollars and will soon have an iPad version.

Photo Details
Canon EOS 7D
400mm 2.8 with 1.4x converter
Effective focal length of 896 mm
ISO 320, 1/10 sec @ f-16

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome Away

If you've never heard of Dwayne's Photo Service, no worries, but the small photo shop in Parsons, Kansas takes it's place in photographic history as the last place in the world to process Kodachrome.

Kodachrome, the slide film that inspired a song by Simon & Garfunkel, was discontinued by Kodak last year at 74 years of age. The color emulsion was a victim of its own weird processing requirements, which didn’t use the usual E6 chemistry designed for transparency film, and therefore wasn’t worth supporting in this digital age.

National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry shot the last 36 exposure roll of Kodachrome recently in New York, London, Bombay, Rajasthan and Istanbul (actually, the last three shots were exposed in Parsons before dropping off the film at Dwayne’s). The pictures will be part of a National Geographic piece in the near future.

McCurry, well-known for his 1984 photograph of Sharbat Gula, or the "Afghan Girl," published on the cover of National Geographic magazine, requested from Kodak to shoot the last roll of 36 frames it manufactured.

As a professional freelance photographer, McCurry has used Kodachrome film for 35 years. "It's definitely the end of an era," he said of Kodachrome. "It has such a wonderful color palette ... a poetic look, not particularly garish or cartoonish, but wonderful, true colors that were vibrant, but true to what you were shooting."

Since this is photographic history, the entire 36 frames shot by McCurry will be sent to the Eastman House in Rochester, New York, where Kodak is based, and become part of the collection there.

The National Geographic special covering the last roll of Kodachrome manufactured will likely air sometime in spring 2011.

Have any old ice encrusted Kodachrome hidden in your freezer? Pull it out and shoot away! Dwayne's Photo Service will be dumping their Kodachrome chemistry on December 10th of this year.

Now excuse me while I go defrost my freezer...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Quickest Way to Lose a Job

The photo is a simple one - a pro golfer acknowledges the applause during the final round of the Reno Tahoe Open last weekend. Only problem is, there's a distracting person behind the golfer wearing a white cap that ruins the otherwise clean shot.

Veteran photographer Marc Feldman who freelances for Getty Images shot the photo and inadvertently sent two images of the same frame. One was a photoshopped version with the distracting person (the golfer's caddy) eliminated.

A sharp eyed photo editor noticed the discrepancies and alerted Getty Images who put an immediate kill on the manipulated photo and after talking to Feldman, severed their relationship.

I know Marc. We've covered some of the same golf tournaments in the past. When I first heard about the manipulated photo, I was in disbelief. I knew Marc would not purposely deceive the readers and manipulate his photos.

What happened was this.

Feldman was in the press tent after the golf tournament when the golfer Matt Bettencourt and his caddie stopped by to see some of the pictures. Feldman said the caddie, looking at the image in question, said it would be better if he wasn't in it. "So I showed them how easy I could do that. I thought I just saved it to the desktop, not to the send folder," he said. "I certainly did not mean to send both of them to Getty."

"There was absolutely no intent to pass this off as a real image. Only a moron would have sent both," he said. "And I would've done it a lot better too."

"I understand Getty has a reputation to uphold. I certainly don't blame them for letting me go," he said. "I know the ethical standards for editorial clients. I just wish my long relationship with them didn't have to end like this."

"I've been doing this for 26 years," he said. "Sometimes you make a mistake and it's fatal. I made a fatal mistake."

I feel bad for Marc. I believe he made a mistake and did not try to deceive the public. What he did is something I've done in the past only never on deadline and I was always very sure to delete the photo, to make certain it did not get transmitted. And that's the strange part about all of this. As a photographer working for a news publication, you try your best to get the photos sent before your competition. You take pride in being faster and better than your competition. Marc was both however how he had the time to manipulate that photo and send it with the rest of his photos is beyond me.

What a shame.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Camera West New Store Location

Camera West Monterey Store RelocationAfter enjoying our ten years in the Professional Building of Monterey, we have relocated to a 3500 square foot space in Rancho Mirage. Our new location features floor to ceiling, North facing windows, convenient parking and a prominent location on Highway 111, in the Coachella Valley.

Our Southern California location provides convenient access not only from Riverside County, but also from Pasadena, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego and provides a nice geographic balance with our Walnut Creek location.

The new space has even more showcases, with expanded areas for Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad and Novoflex. We are presently adding a large format printer demo area, where our Leica, Hasselblad and other extreme digital products may be properly shown. We also have available private appointments by request.

We have also increased the space for our Leica Shop.
Opened in 2002, this was the first of the Leica authorized boutique stores in the Americas. Our clients have consistently stated that we have the largest inventory of Leica, displayed anywhere in North America.

If you are looking for a just introduced and hard to find lens or accessory or a unique addition to your museum quality collection, we are likely to be able to fulfill your wishes.

Camera West has always been known for their expert product knowledge and personalized customer service. If you happen to be in the San Francisco or Los Angeles areas, please stop by and discover what Camera West is known for!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Photos from the recent Mendocino Photo Expedition.

Pictures from our recent photo expedition are now posted on our Flickr site and are available for viewing here or by clicking on the above image. Camera West greatly appreciates all attendees submitting their photos for us to share.

Camera West Flickr.

Camera West.

A Darkroom Revelation

Darkrooms…anybody remember them? I'm sure very few of you actually spend time in them these digital days although I hear there are a few diehards out there.

Anyway, the point of this post is not about darkrooms, but rather a special moment I had in a darkroom early in my career that I'll never forget.

Tomorrow marks an anniversary of sorts for me. Thirty four years ago, I covered a major national news story that happened in my hometown of Livermore, California and it was what I saw on my negatives in the orange light of the darkroom late that night that I'll never forget.

A little background. I was just a rookie, 3 years into my career working as a photographer for the Tri Valley Herald in Livermore. Major news just didn't happen in sleepy Livermore Valley. I was shooting things that you commonly see in small town newspapers…ribbon cuttings, rotary meetings, high school events, youth soccer…shooting any major news was rare. But all that changed on the night of July 16, 1976.

That night the managing editor of my paper, Barry Schrader was giving some friends of his a tour of the Livermore Police Department. They apparently were interested in law enforcement and were curious about the Livermore PD's new complex. While there, a call came in to the dispatcher…the abducted Chowchilla kids were found.

Chowchilla is a small California central valley farming community where the previous day, a school bus full of 26 children simply disappeared without a trace. The FBI were called in and a nation wide search for the bus, the driver and the kids started. They were found on this night buried in a quarry near Livermore.

Barry quickly called the 3 staff photographers who worked on the paper. I was the only one he could reach as I was at home doing laundry. Remember, this was pre-cell phone days. Anyway, in an excited voice Barry told me what little he knew - that the kids were found at an old gravel quarry just out of town. I asked him if the kids were alive and Barry said he didn't know. So, I grabbed my gear and headed out to the scene.

It was dark and quiet when I arrived at the gates to the rock quarry. Just a single Alameda County Sheriff's officer was at the closed gate. Nobody else was there. I was not only the first media member to arrive, but the first person there thanks to Barry's early tipoff. Of course I was not allowed past the gate. The entire rock quarry was considered a crime scene and sealed off. I started asking the officer for details on what was happening and as is all too often the case, he was not revealing any answers. The foremost question on my mind was, were the kids ok?

So I made a few photos of the scene. I forgot how long I was there, less than an hour or so, but during that time, a few people arrived along with many more police vehicles and the unmarked cars of the FBI. Still no other media around! If the kids came out this gate, I'd have a rare exclusive photo.

Sure enough, in the darkness, a long string of police cars come from the quarry to exit the gate. I knew this meant something was going to happen so I turned on my strobe and readied my camera looking through the windows of each car as they exited the gates. If the kids were in the cars alive, I needed that photo. No kids. All the officers expressions seemed grim to me. I was getting worried about the fate of the kids.

Then, along comes a sheriff's department bus from the quarry. This was it! The kids had to be onboard this bus! I started making pictures as the bus approached, and when it got close to me, I raised my camera high above me in what's called a hail mary shot and made 3 flash exposures into the front window of the bus. I had no idea what I was going to get as it was dark and I couldn't see into the bus. And, the sides of the bus had thick bars across all the windows as it was a prisoner transport, so no view inside those windows. Only had time for 3 exposures due to the slow recycle of my flash. And then as the bus exited the gates, the driver opened the door a crack to check on traffic coming from the right as it was going to make a left hand turn. Not a sound came from inside the bus. It was surreal…I thought the kids were dead!

Now it was close to my deadline so it was time to rush back to the office. The only publishable photo I had was of the sheriff's officer standing outside the closed gates of the rock quarry. Not much of a photo but the best I had. What would come out of those hail mary shots through the front window of the bus was what I was excited about as I drove back to the office. But the thought of the dead quiet coming from inside the bus was what concerned me. Wouldn't there be some noise coming from 26 rescued school kids if they were alive?

In the closet-like film processing room back at the office, I put the spool of 35mm Kodak Tri-X through the D-76 developer, and then a few minutes in the fixer and with anticipation, held the wet negative up to the orange dark room light. My heart jumped. There on film, barely visible were 2 of the children's faces, looking bewildered, but alive. A moment in the darkroom I'll never forgot.

All 26 kids including the bus driver were safe despite being buried underground in a makeshift dungeon. The 3 kidnappers were arrested in the upcoming days and 2 of them are still in prison to this day.

I never saved the photo, but here is a copy of the front page of my paper. Associated Press picked up the photo and distributed it world-wide that night. Exciting times for a small town newspaper shooter!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Leica Firmware Update: V-Lux 20, M8 and M8.2

New firmware updates for the Leica M8, M8.2 and V-LUX 20 will be available as a download in the customer area of the Leica homepage from July 9, 2010.

Leica M8 and M8.2 – Firmware Update Version 2.005
Debugging “Shutter Fault”
The new firmware will eliminate the “Shutter Fault” message that may appear on the display when
shooting in C-Mode (Continuous) or taking several pictures in a fast row in S-Mode (Single).

The following will be observed after the firmware update:
• The existing profiles will be eliminated during the update process. User must regenerate their
user profiles.
User cannot revert to the previous firmware.

Leica V-LUX 20 – Firmware Update Verstion 2.0
With the new firmware, the following features will be available:
[MODE PLAY] has been added to the [PLAYBACK MODE].
This playback mode is useful if you want to play back only still pictures or only videos.
Still pictures can be captured from motion pictures.
This allows a scene from a motion picture to be saved as a still picture.
Motion pictures can be split.
This allows a single motion picture to be split into 2 parts. This is convenient when you want to
keep just the necessary scenes, or if you wish to delete unnecessary scenes to increase free
space on your card.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Potent LITTLE video production package... watch this space.

A good friend of Camera West, Manny Crisostomo, dropped in to show some of the add ons he has for his new Apple iphone. The set up included a machined metal case, external mic, wide angle lens adapter, LED light box and grip. Potent little package for video production on the go. Yes that's right, shoot, edit, and submit in the field without need for any extra support. Again, potent.

Check out more of Manny's work:


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lighting Fundamental Class

Lighting Fundamentals
6:30-8:30pm, July 14th, 2010
Camera West,
Suite 201, 1255 South Main Street
Walnut Creek, CA

Please join us for another outstanding lighting seminar presented by Jim King; an industry professional with decades of experience. Beginner and advanced shooters alike will find the variety of topics and depth of discussion invaluable. Jim will cover the tools, techniques, and essential vocabulary of harnessing light to work in your favor.

Some of the topics that will be covered include:
-Wireless Flash: Optical slaves, radio systems, IR
-Portrait Setups: Butterfly, Rembrandt, Split, Profile, Short
-Creative Light Softboxes and Modifiers
-Custom White Balance: Color Checker Passport
-Metering: Grey card, spot, etc...
-Profoto Lighting Equipment

Pre-payment is required and seating is limited. This workshop will fill up quickly so we recommend that you reserve your seat now! Beverages and snacks will be provided.

Contact Hal for information:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Canon Unveils the "Wonder Camera" - ETA 2030!

Canon has just revealed a glimpse to the future at the Shanghai World Expo this month. The "Wonder Camera," is their concept on what a still/video camera will be like in twenty years. This hair dryer-like fixed lens camera will have an ultra stabilized zoom lens capable of a macro to 5,000mm range with an unheard of resolution, and a touch screen/surface interface. It will shoot in video mode only since Canon claims the resolution will be so high that you can just pick the frames you want for high quality stills.

Check out this video from :

Monday, July 5, 2010

More Digital Shenanigans

And yet again, an editor of a leading news publication misleads her readers with a photoshopped image and thinks it's ok.

The striking image on the cover of The Economist is of President Obama on one of his visits to the Gulf Coast to survey the BP oil spill. In the background is an oil rig. In the foreground, Obama is seen alone, head down looking forlornly at the ground. Only problem is, he was not alone - just cropped and photoshopped to appear that way.

The unaltered image shot by Reuters photographer Larry Downing shows Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard and Charlotte Randolph, a local parish president, standing alongside the president. But The Ecomomist cover cropped out Allen and completely removed Ms. Randolph.

Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist, had this to say about the cover.

"I was editing the paper the week we ran the image of President Obama with the oil rig in the background. Yes, Charlotte Randolph was edited out of the image (Admiral Allen was removed by the crop). We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers.

We often edit the photos we use on our covers, for one of two reasons. Sometimes - as with a cover we ran on March 27 on U.S. health care, with Mr. Obama with a bandage round his head - an obvious joke. Sometimes - as with an image of President Chavez on May 15 on which we darkened the background, or with our "it's time" cover endorsing Mr. Obama, from which the background was removed altogether - it is to bring out the central character. We don't edit photos in order to mislead.

I asked for Ms. Randolph to be removed because I wanted readers to focus on Mr. Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated. That wasn't the point of the story."

Take a close look at both the original photo and the cover. They tell two different stories. Two different emotions. The cropped and photoshopped version is clearly the most compelling but it's a lie.